Coming to America: Wines from India Hit the New York Market
Sep 6, 2011 | 2:14 pm
From high-end eateries to all-you-can-eat buffets and food trucks, Indian food is a fixture in New York’s dining scene. But what about an Indian wine to go with your curry?
That’s right, India makes wine, though it was once nearly impossible to find here. But in the last year, Indian wines have been popping up on shelves and menus around the city.
Wine of India Wholesale, an importer and distributor of Indian wines, began operating in the New York City area last August. Then in October, Good Earth Winery, a newish Indian vineyard, released its first vintage in New York City and Washington, D.C.
Since then, it’s been an uphill battle to popularize Indian wines in New York.
“The biggest difficulty that we’ve encountered is the lack of awareness that India makes wine,” says Yash Shah, president of sales and marketing at Wine of India Wholesale.
That lack of awareness is often compounded by outright skepticism about Indian wines.
“When I walk into a retail [wine] store and speak to the buyer, I get the craziest looks,” says Ann Skillman, managing director of Good Earth Winery’s North American operations. “They just can’t believe that a quality product could be from [India].”
Based in Maspeth, Queens, Wine of India Wholesale imports and distributes wines from Maharashtra’s Nashik Valley, the hilly, cool region about 120 miles southeast of Mumbai where Good Earth and most of India’s other winemakers are located.
Good Earth's wines are now available in 20 wine shops and restaurants in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and Shah's company supplies Indian wines to about 75 restaurants and liquor stores throughout New York City and Long Island.
For their part, New York wine retailers defend their cautious approach to Indian wines.
At Sherry-Lehmann Wine & Spirits on the Upper East Side, Indian wines are not stocked mainly because customers are not requesting them.
“It’s not something for which there is tremendous demand,” says Joy Land, a longtime salesperson at Sherry-Lehmann. “Because we have widely traveled customers, many of them have been to India and were there before the wine was good.”
But Indian wines have improved in recent years, and now some New York shops are willing to give them a try.
“I had tasted a handful of Indian wines [in the past]. A lot fell short of my expectations,” says Cristiano Andrade, general manager and wine director at Sea Grape Wine Shop in the West Village.
But Andrade was impressed enough by Good Earth’s first vintage to order the Shiraz and sauvignon blanc for his shop.
“It shows good maturity for a first bottling,” Andrade says. “We did a tasting, and it was popular.”
At Dandelion Wine in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Good Earth’s Cabernet Sauvignon also fared well at an in-store tasting, though owner Lily Peachin says many of her customers are hesitant to buy it.
“There was interest when we did a tasting, and people bought them. But it’s not like all of a sudden people are asking for wines from India,” Peachin says. “It’s still a novelty item in the American market.”
Dandelion, Sea Grape, and a few Manhattan wine shops report that Indian wines are selling slowly but steadily.
“We’ve had to reorder them, and they do sell,” says Ben Wood, a buyer at 67 Wine on the Upper West Side. “They just don’t sell fast.”
Still, many of these wine-shop owners and buyers expect Indian wines to catch on in New York.
“There’s a lot of interest in Indian food and culture in New York City,” Wood says. “India is an area of the world that you have to be paying attention to.”
— Anne Noyes Saini, City Spoonful